GRAPHIC NOVELS

Freedom Hospital: A Syrian Story

Interlink. Mar. 2018. 288p. tr. from French by Francesca Barrie. ISBN 9781623719951. pap. $20. F
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Syria's ongoing civil war began as mostly peaceful people's protests against Bashar al-Assad's repressive regime. But when Assad responded with violence, the opposition expanded to include armed revolutionaries plus groups of radical Islamists, some with Daesh/ISIS affiliation. Sulaiman, who fled Syria in 2011, based this fictionalized account on actual events. It's 2012, and pharmacist Yasmin runs a clandestine hospital near the Turkish border, treating the wounded without taking sides. Around her the chaos intensifies and more people die, combatants and civilians alike. Front-matter profiles introduce the characters: clinicians, patients, and locals of all factions, each with allegiances and betrayals. Sulaiman works in stark, expressionist black and white, his images like glimpses lit by explosions seen while running. In some panels, text blocks identify weaponry as "made in Russia" or "made in the U.S.," indicating outside support for the various parties in the struggle.
VERDICT This devastating, intimate view of a complex international tragedy bypasses easy labeling to empathize with all participants as victims. An English PEN's Writers in Translation grantee and a compelling read for book groups and concerned Anglophones.
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